A day in the life of a Pediatric Medical Assistant
Behind the smile......
One might ask, "What is the difference between a Medical Assistant (MA) and let's say... a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN)?" The answer is simple, more schooling is required to be an LPN and even more schooling is required to be an RN resulting in more pay than a Medical Assistant. Perhaps we can take a closer look at the job duties of a Medical Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse and a Registered Nurse all employed in a pediatric practice and distinguish the difference in duties.
Let's start with the Medical Assistant. You've probably seen the commercials on your television of the young, excited, smiling young lady wearing crisp medical scrubs, with a chart in one arm and a stethoscope around her neck, right? If so, she usually has the job of either working in the front office (administrative setting) checking patients in to see their physicians or providers, collecting co-payments, verifying insurances, preparing charts, or making copies of medical records. The list can go on and on in a front office setting. A Medical Assistant can also work in the back office (clinical setting) where she'd obtain your child's vital signs, perform vision and hearing test, administer vaccines and medications. Again, the list can go on and on in a back office setting. You've probably witnessed the same medical staff taking your insurance card and taking your temperature.
The duties of Licensed Practical Nurse and a Registered Nurse in a Pediatric practice are exactly the same, just sometimes few and far between depending on employer. MA's are usually paid hourly and LPN's and RN's are on salary, depending.
Case in point.
You may have a 3:30pm sick appointment scheduled for your son. You've arrived for your appointment at 3:42pm. Appointments are scheduled every 15 minutes, already waiting and ready is the 3:45pm appointment. The primary goal of an MA is to keep the provider's exam rooms filled so that he is never waiting to see a patient. Unfortunately, you will have to wait so that the provider doesn't.
On any given day a Medical Assistant may have to resort to bribery (stickers, toys or lollipops) in order to get your strong willed or temperamental offspring to merely stand on a digital scale in order to obtain a weight so that their Pediatrician can calculate the proper dose of medication if needed. The jumping of hurdles for a Medical Assistant has only begun. Perhaps your strong willed or temperamental offspring is the culprit behind your lack of sleep and dealing with your child's tantrum is the last thing that you want to do, especially in public. Pressed for time at this point, it's already 4:15pm some parents will ask, beg,and plead with their kids and finally turn to the Medical Assistant and say "He doesn't want to stand on the scale and I can't make him do it. Can't we just use the weight taken from his last visit from 2 weeks ago?" At 4:17 with a smile, the Medical Assistant will suggest that a weight can be obtained by weighing mom and child together. Next she'd weigh mom only and subtract the last weight from the original weight all while remembering which room number they'd be going to except mom has declined that method involving her to actually stand on the scale .
Upon entering the exam room your Medical Assistant will need to know the reason for the visit in hopes of expediting the wait time in the office. "He's not eating. He's had diarrhea and vomitting for several days. Ear pulling all night. Oh, and high fevers!" mom states. That weight probably would have come in handy especially since upon looking back at the last visit the words 'declined/refused' are written where the weight should be. After obtaining the child's temperature of 103.4 the MA may ask if the child has taken any medications or fever reducers yet. Mom states "No, I wanted you guys to see that he really does have a fever. He woke up burning up. He refused to take anything. I tried to schedule his appointment around his nap time....."
The Medical Assistant will have to give a fever reducer in the office to prevent the possibility of a seizure. "Mom, I'm sorry. I would love to give him something now to help with the fever but a current weight is needed. If there were a recent weight in his chart to use from a previous visit I would but with his vomiting and diarrhea it would still be hard to gauge. I'm afraid that ..........." Before the MA can finish her attempt to verbally walk upon eggshells the Mom says as she storms out of the exam room, with child in tow towards the scale again "This is ridiculous! I've been coming here for years...... I've been waiting for over an hour! STAND ON THE SQUARE! " Like magic he stood on the scale after sensing that bargaining from Mom was not an option.
By 4:21pm a fever reducer and current weight has been given and documented in the chart which is on the desk of the Provider. Your Pediatrician Provider has decided after over hearing your outburst while he was seeing the 3:45pm appointment that he will give you a few extra moments to cool off and take a potty-break. Your MA informed your doctor to stress the importance of treating high fevers and potential problems that can arrive if you wait. At 4:45pm you are walking down the hall with 2 prescriptions in hand, smiling and thanking everyone in a scrub uniform in your path as you head for the exit.
Your MA is cleaning the exam room that you once occupied so that the 4:00pm appointment can finally be seen. Shredded table paper, a juice spill and cereal pieces decorate the floor. She grabs the chart for the 4:00pm appointment and as she peaks her face into the waiting room to call them back to be weighed she receives a smile and a wave from your once tempermental tike. You then demand and hand your MA the 2 prescriptions and say "Call those in to the pharmacy. The number should be in his chart. I'm on my way there now! We've been here long enough!" Coincidently and conveniently a Licensed Nurse Practicioner says, "I'll take care of it" as she takes the prescriptions and place them on the desk of the Registered Nurse to call the pharmacy. However, the Registered Nurse had already left for the day. Later, your Medical Assistant sat at the RN's desk to make a phone call to her family that she'll be late coming home. She notice your child's prescription and she thought about your son's small hand waving 'goodbye' to her and his smile as she calls the pharmacy.
In closing, have you ever been that impatient sleep deprived mom? Perhaps you've witness a parent in the waiting room threatening to transfer to another pediatrician practice due to a lengthy wait time. Would it be too much from one human to another to consider that your MA, LPN, or RN would rather get you in and out of the practice as fast as possible? MA's are here for you.....most of us are moms too. Unfortunately the above scenario happens all too often and several times a day in pediatric offices all over.
Tips for a smoother and swifter office visit:
- Arrive on time. In the event that you are running late, give the office a call.
- Dress your infant or child in clothing that can be easily removed particularly if they'll be getting a physical exam.
- Treat fevers over 101.0 F with a fever reducer. Doing so can actually reduce your wait time. A fever doesn't have to be proven. Febrile seizures in the office can ruin the entire day for everyone.
- If your child is tempermental at home they're just as likely to be tempermental in public. Put your foot down at home and in public, it can save their lives. Attach a consequence to defiant actions.
- Your MA, LPN, or RN can see an average of 30 patients or more a day in 15 minute intervals. Running on schedule is just as likely as all 30 patients arriving on time and not exceeding the 15 minutes allotted.
- Please and thank you. If you don't use your manners (especially while stressed) what makes you think that your child will?
- Cooperate and enforce cooperation. Adult temper tantrums cause for adult time-outs resulting in longer wait times.
Beneficial article/tips? Well...yeah. If not? Yeah-well